2017 Boras Classic Preview

The 5th annual Boras Classic is back in SoCal this week with the event running Tuesday, April 18th through Friday, April 21st. JSerra and Mater Dei will once again serve as host sites for what has quickly become on the top tournaments in the country from a prospect and competition standpoint.

The winner of the south bracket will face Bellarmine Prep of San Jose in the State Championship on May 6th at site that is to be determined.

Mira Costa of Manhattan Beach is the defending champion having defeated Davis High School in the state final game at Cal Berkeley last May.

This years incarnation of the southern tournament features five players that are widely considered Top 75 MLB Draft prospects led by Hunter Greene of Sherman Oaks Notre Dame, who many considered the potential number one overall pick. Royce Lewis (JSerra), Nick Pratto (Huntington Beach), Hagen Danner (Huntington Beach) and Garret Mitchell (Orange Lutheran) are all expected to be taken in the first two rounds of the upcoming draft in June.

There are other players who will likely be selected in this years draft as well. Players like Jeremiah Priddy (Corona), Sam Glick (El Toro), Jayson Gonzalez (Bishop Amat), and Isaiah Paige (Damien) are just a few of the “other” prospects scouts will be tracking this week.

In addition to the marquee prospects playing this week, the Boras Classic has always been about having top teams from the region and this year is no different as 10 of the 16 participating teams are either in first place or share first place in their respective leagues.

With that said, let’s take a look at the first round matchups.

Corona vs El Toro –  @ JSerra 9:00 AM

In a matchup we generally are exposed to in the postseason, this game features two of the hottest teams in SoCal to kick off the tournament.

Corona comes into the Boras Classic winners of 8 of-their-last 10 and in the mix in the BigVIII League with a 6-3 record. El Toro has won 9 of-their-last 10 including wins over Gahr, a double header sweep of Mater Dei (both in the Boras Classic) and a big league win over Mission Viejo. The Chargers have a one-game lead in the South Coast League.

For Corona, the Panthers are getting incredible pitching from seniors Jeremiah Priddy, Michael Hobbs and Brenden Beck that lead a staff that carries a 2.11 ERA on the season. Meanwhile, El Toro has their own Big Three in Sam Glick, Jake Jackson, and Noah Fluman. All six players are committed to Division I schools.

This game could come down to the team that makes the least mistakes and with a 9:00 AM start – and dozens of scouts in attendance – there will be plenty of nerves.

Orange Lutheran vs Gahr – @ JSerra 12:00 PM

Two teams that are pretty familiar with each other from having played several fall/winter games against one another over the last few years, the noon game will give pro scouts their first look of the week at Garret Mitchell of Orange Lutheran.

The Lancers were riding high after winning the NHSI two weeks ago before coming back into Trinity League play and being swept by St. John Bosco. Adding to the frustration for OLu was the loss of Jasiah Dixon, a speedy outfielder who will likely be a high draft pick when he’s eligible.

After starting 2-8, the Gahr Gladiators have gone 6-1 since aided by some league games. Outfielder JeVon Ward has seen his stock dip a little bit, but should still have the opportunity to have his name called in the upcoming MLB Draft. Junior Shortstop Mikey Perez is a very advanced player and one who has the attention of scouts.

On paper this is a game OLu should roll, but as we know the game isn’t played on paper.

Chatsworth vs Vista Murrieta – @ JSerra 3:00 PM

The best team in the City Section goes against the best team in the Temecula area.

Chatsworth hasn’t lost in one month, a streak of 14 games. Vista Murrieta has won 8 of-their-last 10. This is a matchup of strength against strength with Vista Murrietas offense against Chatsworth’s pitching. The Broncos have seven hitters batting over .325 while the Chancellors have four pitchers with at least four wins led by Thomas Gutierrez who sits at 7-0.

Vista Murrieta is making their fifth appearance in the Boras Classic, while Chatsworth is making their third appearance, meaning the moment won’t be too big for either.

If this is a Brandon Ross (VM) against Thomas Gutierrez (Chatsworth) pitching matchup, scouts will have plenty to pay attention too.

Mira Costa vs JSerra – @ JSerra 6:00 PM

The final game of Day One of the Boras Classic will give scouts what they came to see in the form of Royce Lewis of JSerra.

JSerra is coming off the National Classic in which they played in the championship game. After a slow start it appears the Lions have begun to gain some momentum, and with the quirky schedule of the Trinity League, JSerra has plenty of matchups left in league to make some noise. For that to happen, the Lions are going to need players like David Le Bioda, Colin Townsend, and Michael Curialle to break out offensively.

Mira Costa is the defending Boras Classic State Champion, but the Mustangs are defending their title without a lot of key parts from last years team. Sitting at 10-7, Mira Costa has lost 5 of-their-last 7 games with four of them by two runs or more.

Notre Dame vs Aliso Niguel – @ Mater Dei 9:00 AM

Notre Dame comes into the Boras Classic as one of the favorites having won 9 of-their-last 10 games and vaulting to a first place position in the always tough Mission League. The Knights are proving to be more than a one-man show although scouts will all be at this game to see that one man. Hunter Greene is expected to be off the draft board by the third pick overall in June, but it appears he is taking the role of mentor very seriously. Freshman Lucas Gordon (4) and sophomore Carter Kessinger (3) have combined for 7 wins with zero losses on the mound. Kessinger is also batting .500 on the season.

Despite having a talented roster, Aliso Niguel limps into the Boras Classic with an 8-9 record with losses in 4 of-their-last 6 games. The Wolverines are getting good pitching from Ethan Hoopingarner (0.44 ERA) and Hunter Ash (1.35 ERA), but seem to be scuffling at the plate where they’re hitting .240 as a team and on defense where they’ve committed 23 errors.

Aliso Niguel has nothing to lose in this tournament and everything to gain. They’re young and very talented and a strong showing in this event can be the type of boost that springs them into a big second half of league.

Damien vs Huntington Beach – @ Mater Dei 12:00 PM

Scouts will have just enough time to grab a quick snack before assuming their positions once again for this game which features both Hagen Danner of Nick Pratto. The pair of teammates are familiar with the swarm of scouts at their games, so the setting shouldn’t be anything unusual for them and their teammates. The same can not be said for Damien who lost many of their talented roster from last years playoff run.

Isaiah Paige is arguably the Spartans best prospect and he’ll have a great opportunity to show scouts the improvement and development he’s made on the mound in recent months. The Michigan commit is also a legitimate outfield prospect.

Huntington Beach is the best team in Orange County for a reason. It helps to have two future first round talents, but the Oilers have a pair of sophomores – Josh Hahn and Garrett Runyan – who could develop into MLB Draft picks in due time. They also have depth at just about every position.

This tournament sets up nicely for Huntington Beach who had a less-than-standard performance at the NHSI a couple weeks ago.

Corona Santiago vs Bishop Amat – @ Mater Dei 3:00 PM

Bishop Amat is riding high after winning the National Classic last week while Corona Santiago comes in one the heels of a big non-league win over Vista Murrieta. These two teams have loaded rosters as usual which will be a treat for fans in attendance.

Bishop Amat features shortstop Jayson Gonzalez a Vanderbilt commit that will likely have to make a decision between college and pro ball this year. Santiago has unquestionably the best middle infielder in the country in next years draft class in Brice Turang who is committed to LSU.

These teams are more than those individuals though. Bishop Amat features Isaac Esqueda on the mound and Jesus Maldonado behind the plate. Both are very talented players that will thrive on the next level. Santiago is built for the future as they have only three seniors in their starting lineup. Jacob Shanks, Taylor Steig, and Cole Jordan are all players college coaches and pro scouts will notice.

La Mirada vs Mater Dei – @ Mater Dei 6:00 PM

Third-year head coach Jimmy Zurn took over a La Mirada program he was very familiar with. After having starred for the Mats and coached under legendary coach Kim Brooks, Zurn was tasked with taking the program to the next level. Well, consider their participation in the Boras Classic a good first step.

The Mats feature two big-time seniors in RJ Lan, a TCU signee, and Kevin Kendall, a UCLA signee. They also have seven regulars batting over .300 on the season. Seniors Eddie Salcido and David Olson are a perfect 12-0 on the mound, while freshman Jared Jones may be the best freshman pitcher in the Southland.

For Mater Dei it’s business as usual. Despite their 10-6 overall record, the Monarchs stand in second place in the brutal Trinity League with series against the top four teams remaining giving them the opportunity to control their own destiny.

Jonathan Schiffer, a Washington signee, is having the type of senior season we all anticipated when we saw him as a freshman. The right handed pitcher is 4-0, 1.17 ERA while also hitting .388 when not pitching. As a team the Monarchs are hitting .310 and feature a 2.21 team ERA. In other words, just another Burt Call coached team.

For the complete brackets, click here.

–Les Lukach
Email me at socalhsbaseball@gmail.com

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RJ’s Legacy, More Than a Game.

RJ Gonzales was born with a bad heart that required open heart surgery a few days after birth. The scar that remained never defined limitation or weakness. Instead, the scar provided motivation and determination for the boy who dreamed of playing baseball on big league diamonds as a man.

Gonzales grew up playing on the baseball fields across the San Gabriel Valley with other kids who are living out their dream of playing professional baseball. And while RJ did not have the talent of his peers, his work ethic, passion, and dedication to overcome his physical weakness is what kept him committed to playing the game he loved the most.  

When he moved to Huntington Beach before his freshman year of high school, RJ was determined to play baseball and run cross country. He made both teams. Not only did he make both teams, he was named the Runner of the Year for his cross country team. He didn’t earn that due to his race results, he earned it because he never gave up despite having a medical condition no other teammate had.

After a successful cross country season, RJ had all the motivation he needed heading into the spring baseball season.

The diminutive freshman was the type of player who would play any position you asked him. He was a baseball rat. Never one to pout about not being able to do something the other kids were doing, RJ was a dedicated teammate no matter how he felt. On any given day RJ had to work three times as hard as average players just to be able to compete with them.

That dedication was not lost on his teammates. It’s what made him loved by everyone he came in contact with.

As the start of his freshman baseball season neared, the anticipation of playing in the storied program at Edison High School was building.

Tragedy struck on a warm spring day in March of 2009. RJ was swimming when his heart had an episode that would ultimately claim his life. The loss of life is always heartbreaking. When that life is of a boy just transitioning into manhood who has battled and overcome so much in life, it’s tragic.

Almost immediately those closest to RJ went to work on developing a foundation and doing something to honor the memory of the young man who had touched so many lives in such a short period of time.

In addition to starting the RJ Foundation, what they came up with was the RJ Legacy Baseball Games. What started as a game in 2010 between South Hills and Bishop Amat, has evolved into the unofficial kickoff to the high school spring baseball season in the San Gabriel Valley.

This years version of the event will take place on Saturday, February 20th at Maverick Field in West Covina. The event has evolved into a double-header in baseball and will also feature a triple-header in softball to held at South Hills High School.

On the baseball side, Walnut will take on San Dimas at 2:30pm followed by Bishop Amat against South Hills at 6:00pm.

The softball games are: South Hills vs Walnut (11:00am), Bishop Amat vs Walnut (1:00pm), and Bishop Amat vs South Hills (3:00pm).

The RJ Legacy games started as a baseball only event and that tradition is deep. Past MVP’s include Rio Ruiz, Peter Lambert, and Gavin Velasquez. Ruiz and Lambert are former high MLB draft picks, and Velasquez kicks off his freshman campaign for Cal State Fullerton this weekend.

Ultimately, the RJ Legacy games are a celebration of the life of a young man who touched so many in his short time on earth. It also serves a wonderful reminder of how baseball has the ability to bring complete strangers together for a game they are passionate about.

–Les Lukach

2016 Border Battle

The preseason high school baseball tournaments continue this weekend with the annual Border Battle in Las Vegas. The tournament features some of the top teams from the Los Angeles and Orange County areas against teams from the Las Vegas area.

The tournament has become a must see for professional scouts given the multitude of prospects that participate in the annual tournament. In what has become the final big tournament before the high school season begins in SoCal, teams feature most of their rosters they’ll trot out when the season begins. For scouts it’s an opportunity to see prospects against top competition before the season begins.

The tournament features four games in two days for most teams.

Below is the full schedule.

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Friday 7:00 PM Saturday 10:00 AM Satuday 1:00 PM Sunday  9:00 AM Sunday – Noon 
Basic Faith Lutheran – 4:30 PM West Ranch South Hills Orange Lutheran Alemany
Bishop Gorman Harvard-Westlake Alemany South Hills @ Burkholder Field Orange Lutheran @ Burkholder Field
Canyon Springs Thousand Oaks Northview Montgomery Rancho Cucamonga
Centennial Corona Oaks Christian Thousand Oaks Northview
Cimarron Rancho Cucamonga Dana Hills JW North Montgomery
Desert Oasis Orange Lutheran Harvard-Westlake West Ranch South Hills
Durango JW North Montgomery Northview Corona
Faith Lutheran Basic at 4:30 PM West Ranch     (7:00 PM) Montgomery JW North
Green Valley South Hills West Ranch Alemany Harvard-Westlake
Las Vegas X X Dana Hills Oaks Christian
Liberty Alemany Orange Lutheran Harvard-Westlake West Ranch
Palo Verde Oaks Christian Corona Rancho Cucamonga JW North
Rancho  North View Thosand Oaks Oaks Christian Dana Hills
Shadow Ridge Dana Hills Rancho Cucamonga Corona  Thousand Oaks 

-Les Lukach

2016 Boras Classic

The 2016 Boras Classic field is set and a tip-of-the-cap is in order to tournament organizers, Brett Kay of JSerra and Burt Call of Mater Dei. The fourth annual version of the tournament is arguably the best collection of teams and prospects assembled in the events short history.

“Burt and I feel that this is one of the strongest groups of teams assembled in any tournament,” said Kay. “There are great programs, great coaches, and such great players.”

The SoCal version of the tournament runs March 29 through April 1 and will once again be hosted by JSerra and Mater Dei. Each school will host four games a day for the four day event.

The tournament will once again have some of the top collegiate and professional prospects from SoCal led by Blake Rutherfod (Chaminade) and Mickey Moniak (La Costa Canyon), both of whom are considered high first round picks in the 2016 MLB Draft. Scouts wont have to wait long to see the two in action as they will face off in a first round matchup.

“There’s probably a handful of future Major Leaguers and 40-50 Division I prospects that will be on the field in this tournament,” said Kay.

While Rutherford and Moniak are the two biggest names in the eyes of professional scouts, they’re not the only two players scouts will be there to see. Other notable draft eligible prospects include: Josh Stephen (Mater Dei), Nick Kahle (Chaminade), Ryan Orr (La Costa Canyon), Will Proctor (Mira Costa), Christian Moya (South Hills), Holden Groff (Loyola), Nick Lodolo (Damien), Chase Strumpf (JSerra), Shane Martinez (JW North).

Notes: 

There are also several underclassman that scouts will be keeping an eye. The four biggest names are all in the class of 2017. Hagen Danner (Huntington Beach), Nick Pratto (Huntington Beach), Garrett Mitchell (Orange Lutheran) and Royce Lewis (JSerra). All have experience playing in front of plenty of scouts through various events and are considered high draft picks in next years MLB Draft.

First Round Games: Mira Costa vs Damien; El Camino Real vs South Hills; Orange Lutheran vs Vista Murrieta; Huntington Beach vs JW North; Mater Dei vs Loyola; Corona Santiago vs JSerra; Chaminade vs La Costa Canyon; Great Oak vs Sherman Oaks Notre Dame. Site and time of each is to be announced.

Mater Dei, Huntington Beach and Chaminade will be playing in the NHSI in Cary, NC the week before the Boras Classic. This is Mater Dei’s third trip to the NHSI where they won the first two iterations of the tournament. Mater Dei has also played host to every Boras Classic. Huntington Beach played in both tournaments last year as well. This is Chaminade’s first trip to the NHSI.